Since I rank S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (PC DVD)
as one of my favourite games, I was all set to fall instantly in love with Call of Pripyat. After my first play-through I'm a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong, it's still an involving, enjoyable gaming experiences and worth a play, but its lost almost all the things that made me fall in love with the series to begin with.
On first impressions I was very taken with the free roaming areas and the improved AI of many of the old foes, the freedom to move around an open world give the illusion at least of a vast sprawling wilderness, there was a greater variety of fauna around the place for you to kill, and the NPC interaction was very intuitive. The best feature by far was the quality of the side missions, real effort has gone into making each one unique and interesting, a vast improvement on SoC's 'go to N, kill X of Y' formula for instant tedious grind. I actually complete most most the fun rather than rewards, which is exactly how games should motivate you. Each mission tells a story which often tie into other plot lines giving the game greater depth and more dimensions, other tassels like weapon modding, hotkeys and artifact detectors were convenient too.
Despite the intricacy of the side quests, the story missions felt dull and aimless by comparison, centering around an insultingly easy orienteering exercise with no really climactic bits save a couple near the end (i.e. getting in and then out of Pripyat), and even that abrupt finish was flaccid and unsatisfying compared to SoC all-out War of a finale,as if a lot more 'game' had been planned. Speaking of easy, I originally had it on the second difficulty in light of how unforgiving a mistress SoC had been, but had to crank it up to get any challenge, I'm not boasting, along with the more diverse wildlife from the start came immediate access to the better equipment as well, loosing all the pacing of the first game, within an hour I had one of the strongest rifles in the game and with repairing and modding became near invincible, I drowned in ammunition and med pickups spilling out my lock boxes and by the end they were giving me these AND repairing stuff for free! Furthermore everyone you meet is sickeningly friendly- even bandits, detecting another PDA just meant someone to chat to; no threat, no suspense, which brings me to my main complaint;
I fell in love with SoC for the spirit squishing, nerve twisting, hollow, echoing loneliness that oppressed me like a tone of very sad bricks the moment I stepped out of Cordon, the creeping tension in your spine that your being followed through that laboratory from the shadows, and the knowledge that your vastly ill equipped to deal with it. Never has a game made me feel so vulnerable whilst holding a gun, the real need to hide whilst enemies pass by. My most treasured gaming moment is still cowering hungry in a dark corner, bleeding to death and down to my last pistol clip with unseen enemies creeping in from every side.
That was FPS survival-horror at its best, CoP's liberal attitude to, well EVERYTHING and happy-go-lucky NPC community deflated all the atmosphere, made a bad joke of the survival and blasted the horror into orbit. Sure they tried to ape the old creepy lab crawling towards the end but by then all pretense and consequence was lost and it was more akin to playing whack-a-mole against sock puppets then fighting for your life.
but that's me, perhaps i was spoiled by SoC to expect CoP to be something its not, thus being blinded to it's charms, perhaps I'm just an amazingly skilled gamer, perhaps I'm a turquoise walrus in space, who knows? CoP is still worth a look for old S.T.A.L.K.E.R fans for the side missions alone (though I'm still unsure what was calling whom to Prypyat in the end), so in my opinion, newbies; start at the beginning.